Today’s consumers want foods that are fresh, good for them and easy to understand. Foods that are willing to take risks when it comes to flavor. Many want their instore grocery experiences to rival the experience of going to a favorite restaurant, as the lines between retail and foodservice continue to blur.

Oh, and make it all super-convenient, if you please.

Pleasing today’s instore consumers gets more challenging by the day. But suppliers at this year’s IDDBA showed, again, that they’re up for it.

Blurring the lines

More and more retailers are looking to invigorate their perimeter-store prepared foods sections, and they’re often looking to their foodservice brethren for inspiration.

That’s why Chicago-based foodservice ingredient specialist Newly Weds Foods thinks it’s the perfect company to lend a helping hand.

After keeping a low profile at IDDBA for several years, Newly Weds went big for the 2018 edition, with not only a big booth on the show floor’s major thoroughfare but a big message for retail foodservice: we’re here to help.

“We’ve been servicing chain restaurants for years and years, but we make a lot of things for deli and retail foodservice, too,” Tom Downs, Newly Weds’ senior director of global marketing, said at the show. “A lot of people in this industry don’t know who we are. When we see the growth of prepared foods, that’s where we know we can play. They’re trying to emulate what traditional foodservice is doing.”

Take instore deli chicken for example, Downs said. A lot of retailers are looking to differentiate themselves with expanded, unique chicken programs. Newly Weds is ramping up its efforts to these potential customers with a full lineup of batters, breadings, seasonings and even menu creation assistance.

The company’s deli chicken breading options include breader, predust, crackermeal, flour breader and flavored breadcrumbs. Topical seasonings for wings, rubs and injects and barbecue sauces are among the other products Newly Weds makes for chicken programs.

Also at IDDBA, Newly Weds, recognizing the increasing importance of food safety to retailers, was spotlighting its Defenstat product, a liquid treatment that protects uncooked meat without affecting product taste or texture. “It’s a good fit for back-of-the-house (retail deli),” Downs said.

Fresh, international, easy

Freshness and international flavors were among the themes Dallas-based FreshOne Holdings LLC was pushing at IDDBA ’18.

The company spotlighted two new items from its FreshTake-branded line of heat-and-eat products: Chimichurri Steak with Garlic Mash Potatoes & Brussel Sprouts and Hot & Spicy Curry Shrimp with Caribbean Rice Blend.

Both come in two sizes: 15-20 ounces and 40 ounces, says Don Janacek, FreshOne’s president. FreshOne is obsessed with freshness, Janacek  says. Its model is to get product to retailers as quickly as possible, skipping cross-docking and warehousing steps that can reduce freshness. FreshOne products, he says, are typically delivered to their retail destination the day they’re made.

“As we see the industry going more and more in that direction —staying on trend, keeping things fresh — we continue to expand,” he says.  FreshOne typically introduces 10 to 12 new products per year, says Amber Blanton, the company’s director of research and development and quality assurance.

Another innovation in meal solutions was highlighted at Carl Buddig and Co.’s booth at IDDBA. Buddig’s partnership with charcoal category leader Kingsford, launched in December, features a variety of barbecue and other meat meal traditions, including Baby Back Pork Ribs, Pulled Pork, Pulled Beef Brisket and Seasoned Pork Carnitas.

The program is has been “very well received,” to the point where the ribs are now No. 1 in their category, says Robert Gay, vice president of marketing for Homewood, Illinois-based Buddig. The ribs are packed in their own oven- and grill-ready pan and can be cooked in 15 minutes in the oven or 8 minutes on the grill, Gay says.

On-trend with clean label, the product contains no HFCS or artificial flavors or preservatives.

In the par-baked category, meanwhile, Rogers, Minnesota-based Nestle Professional was highlighting its new Stouffer’s brand 11.5 oz Chicken Pot Pie, which Corb Fister, national account manager, said is the only par-baked chicken pot pie in the marketplace.

“It saves deli operators time,” Fister says. “You just open the box and display. Literally everyone who’s come by the booth has liked it. Flavor, convenience, comfort food, price — everything lines up.”

White cheddar mac ‘n cheese, smoky black beans and stuffed poblanos were among the other ready-to-eat products Nestle spotlighted at IDDBA ’18.

Also in ready-to-eat, Mediterranean foods specialist Grecian Delight introduced its new line of Opaa! branded sliced meats that ship frozen to grocery prepared foods departments and are then heated for ready-to-eat hot bar sales, says Erin Dolan, a senior associate brand manager for the company.

The resealable bags are similar to microwaveable vegetable bags, Dolan said. Product takes three minutes to heat.

Blount Fine Foods spotlighted a new side dish and two new soups at IDDBA ’18.

It’s more common for retail foodservice products to get their inspiration from foodservice, but in the case of Blount’s new Asiago Mac and Cheese with Fire-Roasted Tomatoes, it’s the other way around, company president Todd Blount said at the show.

The new side and the two new soups, Southwest Corn Chowder and Minestrone, all ship under Blount’s Panera at Home line.

The soups are new twists on old favorites, Blount said. The Minestrone, for example, features chickpeas and kale to give it not only a unique taste but also appeal for health-minded consumers.

Tradition with a twist

Offerings from deli salad and side specialist Reser’s Fine Foods at IDDBA ’18 include new twists on old comfort food favorites.

Beaverton, Oregon-based Reser’s unveiled a new formula for its popular egg salad, says Nathan Roe, category manager. The company increased the amount of egg in the salad by reducing the proportion of other ingredients to appeal to a more Eastern taste profile, Roe says. Egg salad is more popular in the East, he says. 

Reser’s also spotlighted a Southern pimento cheese with the cream cheese removed and a deviled egg macaroni salad —a macaroni version of the company’s popular deviled egg potato salad, Roe says. And speaking of potato salad, Reser’s has a new Southern-style potato salad with egg and sweet pickle relish.

Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania-based Delallo showcased a line of products that gives retailers the advantage of merchandising a product that looks like it was packed inhouse —without the labor actually packing inhouse would entail, says the company’s Anthony DiPetro.

Delallo is packing its top-selling olive and antipasti items in clear small, medium and large containers that looked like they were packed in the deli, DiPetro says. “They display well and are a great supplemental purchase with cheese and charcuterie,” he says. With the exception of an ingredients panel on the bottom, the containers are label-free. All items are sealed to prevent leaks, and packs have a longer shelf life than product repacked instore, DiPetro says.

Snack attack

Now that it’s under the Hormel Foods umbrella, Columbus Craft Meats is ramping up production and promotion of new meat-and-cheese snack and antibiotic-free products, company officials said at IDDBA.

Several spotlighted products featured a large banner across the front of the label reading “Pork Raised Without Antibiotics Ever!”  Products in the line include Uncured Pepperoni & Fontina Cheese and Uncured Italian Dry Salame.

On the snacking side, among the Columbus products highlighted at the show were a 1.3 oz Italian Dry Salame Panino, which features thin-sliced Monterey jack cheese rolled with salame; and a 3.9 oz Genoa Salame Panino, thin-sliced mozzarella rolled with salame.

Coming in October from Hormel’s Hormel Gatherings line, meanwhile, are two new party trays. The 28 oz Cheese Ball Party Tray features a ball made with Kaukauna sharp cheddar coated with gourmet almonds. The 52 oz “jumbo” tray features four Hormel brand meats —chorizo, Genoa salami, ham and turkey —round, crispy crackers and four cheeses: gouda, swiss, cheddar and colby-jack.

New products from another Hormel deli meat brand, Jennie-O, include two bulk-case flavored turkey breasts: sweet Thai and chili pepper. The chili pepper turkey features ancho and ghost chilis and red bell peppers. “There aren’t a whole lot of new flavors being brought into the bulk case,” says John Gerde, who specializes in deli case products for Hormel.

Another turkey specialist, Garner, N.C.-based Butterball LLC, showed off a new addition to its line of premium bulk case turkey breasts that contain no binders. Deep Fried Turkey Breast joins Thanksgiving Style Roasted Turkey Breast and Cajun Style Turkey Breast, says Kyle Lock, Butterball’s senior director of marketing for retail. The line also features new packaging, he says.  

Also in the snacking category, Loves Park, Illinois-based TH Foods Inc. leans heavily on consumer research to create new products, and spotlighted items at IDDBA included snacks that tapped into trends including ethnic and functional foods, gluten-free, simple ingredient panels and consumers’ desire for snacks with a crunch, says Kim Holman, TH Foods’ marketing director.

Spotlighted products included Protein Brownie Thins, Vegetable Cheese Crisps, Protein Snack Crackers, Multi-Grain Crackers, Multi-Seed Crackers and Pumpkin Harvest Crackers. “Everything we do is research-based, and our snacks are carriers” for the attributes consumers are looking for. “We really try to capture consumer trends. For instance, customers said they wanted more cheese in our multi-grain crackers, so we added more cheese.”

Paterson, New Jersey-based flatbread specialist Kontos Foods Inc. added to its snack offering with its 4 oz Toasted Tidbits, toasted pita pieces that Donna Appy, regional sales manager, compares to small French fries.

Perfect for soups and salads in addition to snacking, a serving size has just 100 calories, Appy says. Toasted Tidbits retail for about $2.49  and have a 90-day shelf life. The product was set to launch shortly after IDDBA and some major retailers have already picked it up, Appy said at the show.